Review: Asura’s Wrath and Episode Pack: Part IV DLC

Review: Asura’s Wrath and Episode Pack: Part IV DLC

Asura’s Wrath is possibly the most dichotomizing game I’ve played in… well… pretty much ever. Right out of the gate, it manages to do just about everything wrong a game possibly could. The game play is minimal and what little there is, is a mash-up of Space Harrier, Panzer Dragoon and God of War, and yet it somehow left me not only in love with the game, but clamoring for more.

Asura’s Wrath is set some 850 million years before present day civilization. The world (Gaea) is run by a race of cyborgs called Demigods who are powered by the prayers and souls of mortals. For reasons not entirely explained, the Demigods are at odds with a malevolent force called the Gohma, which is said to be the will of the planet. In a quest to destroy the Gohma the Demigods have begun to amass their soul-fueled power source, Mantra. With me so far?

Asura’s Wrath has a load of call-backs to classic anime shows like Dragonball Z and Naruto and, while I’ve never watched either, I’m starting to wonder if I should. It takes the classic “shout really loud until we reach an entirely unseen level of power” approach and while it gets to be somewhat predictable the sheer scale of the game never fails to impress. One of the early boss enemies in the game starts out standard sized and within 5 minutes of boss battling, he ends up literally larger than the entire planet. And this is one of the first bosses you fight. By some amazing feat of design, the game always manages to outdo itself and the craziness and grandeur increase steadily right up until the end.

Making use of Unreal 3, Asura’s Wrath looks incredible. It makes use of a fairly cartoony art-style without looking childish. Sure, Asura has enormous teeth, but he also has six brutal and muscular arms. Not to mention his cool blue pants with the flame up the side.

While the setting and design of Asura’s Wrath are possibly some of my favorite this year, the game play is severely lacking. There are two main modes of play: an on-the-rails shoot-em up style that is essentially a carbon copy of Space Harrier and a free-running action mode. The objective of the game play is always to fill the Burst meter at the top of the screen. Attacking enemies, hitting quick-time events and taking damage all contribute to the Burst meter and once it’s filled, the fight will either conclude or progress to the next stage, generally with a load of quick-time prompts in-between. The action style combat is pretty hollow. One button does a light attack, one a heavy attack and one a ranged attack, and while you have the option to dodge, I found it was almost never needed. Even on the final few encounters you can just button mash your way through the fights, especially knowing that it will end as soon as the Burst meter finishes. Unfortunately, the combat is extremely clunky and only really serves as a means of getting to the next cut scene.

Another huge hit to Asura’s Wrath’s final score is its length. This game is short. I completed it from start to finish in just over four hours and that included me redoing a few levels to try and get the trophies. The game is also, essentially, unfinished. Without the Episode IV Pack DLC Asura’s Wrath basically ends with a giant middle finger to the player that says “buy our DLC”. So while you have already spent the price of a brand new game on a four hour experience you now need to add an additional $7.99 to have any sort of closure. If you DID buy the game and are now so disgusted you want nothing more to do with Asura’s Wrath, the DLC is definitely worth it. It puts a great finishing touch on the story and, somehow, manages to take the scale up right past the notch marked “Sane”.

I can almost guarantee that Asura’s Wrath was once meant to be an episodic game that somehow ended up on disc with a new-game price tag. The game is broken up into episodes and the credits will roll every single episode. There are also randomly inserted start screens even though you’re already in the middle of an episode and “previously on Asura’s Wrath” recaps at the end. I envy the Matt Eades in that alternate universe where Asura’s Wrath was an episodic game. Paying $40 for a season pass and then having access to all the Asura’s Wrath would have made this a 10/10 experience for me, but for the average consumer paying $60 or more and then the DLC cost on top of that is probably just not worth it. It’s too bad, because Asura’s Wrath is an amazing experience. It just also happens to be a very expensive one.

I might not even categorize Asura’s Wrath as a game, at least not in the traditional sense. I’d put it up there with Journey and mark it “interactive experience”; still highly enjoyable, just not highly traditional. It’s great to see Capcom leave their standard IPs and try something totally new.

Should You Buy It?

When it goes on sale, or if you are a crazy person who isn’t super concerned about getting maximum value for your dollar, then yes. It’s an amazing experience and the fact that I can still talk it up despite some pretty glaring flaws, and despite me essentially hating traditional anime and manga, should speak to that. Be warned though, if you are going to buy it the experience is not even remotely complete without the Episode Pack: Part IV DLC. At $7.99 on the PSN or 560 space bucks on the Xbox Live Marketplace. It’s possibly the most bang for your buck you can get with Asura’s Wrath.

Score: 8.2/10

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